I can hear the soldiers pounding on the door, their rifles beginning to crack the wood. The small baby in my sister’s arms is crying, wailing as his mother tries to no avail to quiet him. My little brother hides in Mother’s skirts and I hold Derek’s hand. One of his hands is around my shoulder, the other, sitting in my lap with mine. I play with the folds of my dress, as the banging continues, and splinters form. The desk we have up against the door won’t do anything to stop them once the door is down, and the windows are watched, even if they hadn’t been boarded up.
I turn to Derek. “Derek … I’ll miss you.”
He looks down at me. “And why would you miss me?”
“Because when they break the door, they’ll make you sign up for the army or die, and they’ll just kill me … unless they’re nice and let me travel with you.”
I pat my oversized belly quietly. Derek, lifts his hand from mine and pull my chin down, then kisses my forehead.
“And if they don’t break the door?”
“That won’t happen,” I say. “They’ll break the door, and kill Mother, take Father with them. Kill Sonja, take her baby, take you, maybe kill me too.”
Sonja lifts a hand to her mouth and sobs drily. Mother sighs. Father pats Sonja, his face grim.
Almost as an afterthought, I add, “Sorry.”
We sit in relative silence as the banging on the door, and the splintering of the wood intensifies. Finally, Father breaks the silence.
“But maybe the door will hold. Maybe they’ll give up on coming to get us. Maybe…”
And that’s when I remember. I stand abruptly, which is quite a feat, considering the inconvenience that lays in wait, weighing me down.
“Trill, what are you-”
I scramble over to the wall at the side of the room, knock on the wood a few times, then find the button. I press it and a small panel slides open right at the foot of the cot in the corner. The rungs that lead down into the secret cellar clatter as they’re released from the alcove they sat in.
I stumble awkwardly over to it. “Everyone in.”
Sonja rises and hurries over without question, cradling her baby. She scrambles down the ladder and into the small cellar. Mother and Father are next. Derek comes over and takes my hand.
“Down you go,” I whisper.
He nods and descends quickly. Then he looks up at me.
“Are you coming?”
I smile sadly down at him. His eyes grow wide, and he reaches for the rungs of the cellar, but I pull the ladder back up and place it in the alcove.
“Even if there wasn’t someone trying to bust in here, I can’t. I wouldn’t be able to make it down.”
“Then I would carry you, but please Trill! Don’t do this!”
“I’m so sorry,” A single tear rolls down my cheek. “I wish there was another way…”
I turn and head to the wall, all the while, hearing the thuds as Derek tries to reach the rungs that hang suspended.
“Once you reach the ladder and pull it down, the hatch will open again, but please, don’t do it until I’ve gone and they’ve thoroughly searched and not found you.” And with that, I press the wall and the door slides back into place.
I head over to the cots and sit down, back to the wall, hugging my belly protectively. The door splinters even more, revealing a single crack in the polished wood.
An eye is revealed. The banging subsides, but I can still hear the soldiers conversing.
“...woman in there.”
Then the banging resumes and the door comes down quickly. I sit patiently, hoping that my family won’t come barging out while the soldiers are here. As the door finally splinters to pieces, the soldiers file in, guns pointed me.
“Name and age.”
“I’m Trill Salong and I’m 25.”
The soldiers eye my belly. “Is that real?”
I clutch the child more protectively. “Of course.”
“We’ll need to check that. If it’s real, you’ll be staying with us. If it isn’t, I’m afraid the only hospitality you’ll get is a bullet’s.”
I nod, determination etched across my face. The soldiers call for a doctor to come in, and soon I’m being laid down on the cot for inspection. The soldiers leave the doctor in the room for his examination and file out. I can hear them standing outside the door though.
The doctor comes over to the cot and tells me to open my mouth. I do, and he checks to make certain I’m healthy. It’s like all the other doctors visits I’ve ever been to, until he holds out a pill and a glass of water and tells me to swallow it.
“What is it?” I ask.
“It will numb your nerves, so you won’t feel any of what I’ll be doing next.”
I put the pill in my mouth and swallow.
“It won’t take effect immediately, so we’ll do a routine check. Please remove your dress.”
I sigh, sit up slightly and pull the dress up over my head. The doctor lays me back down and feels my breasts, looking to see if they’re truly full of milk, then he feels my stomach, uses a stethoscope and works around down where I can’t see what he’s doing, but don’t feeling him actually doing anything.
When the examination is over, he tells me to put my dress back on, then he opens the door and goes out.
I pull the dress back down over myself and swing into a sitting position. The door opens not 2 minutes later and the soldiers come in.
“You’ll be coming with us lady. It seems you’ll be going in the maternity ward.”
The soldier’s face is a look of disappointment.
“Did you lose anything betting?” I guess.
The soldiers face sours farther. “That’s not your place, wench.”
“Oh, I’m a wench now? Hmm. I didn’t know having a baby made you a wench. I’ll have to remember that for the next time I see my husband.”
“Shut your mouth, wench! Or I’ll pull out your tongue. You don’t need a tongue to have a baby.”
I smile sweetly at him. “Why of course, sir.”
I do so, and the soldier puts handcuffs around my wrist. I turn back around and an slowly escorted out of the room and the house itself. A camouflage van sits in wait. I’m shoved into the back with the doctor, who tells me to lay down on a bed that’s been shoved into the van, likely from one of the rooms in the house. I do so, but not before getting a good last look at my home.
“Don’t do anything foolish,” I whisper.
The soldiers and the doctor come into the van again. They bring the stool from the kitchen. The doctor rummages around his bag a moment and pulls out a small vial.
“Open your mouth.”
“Why?” I ask.
“You’ll travel easier if you’re asleep.”
“But I don’t want to go to sleep,” I say.
“You’ll go to sleep girl. Do as the doctor tells you, or we’ll have to put you to sleep forcibly,” The soldier lets his hand sink to a small metal ball strung to his hip.
“No. I won’t go to sleep,” I say.
The soldiers jump up and pin me to the bed. I struggle, trying to free myself from their grips. The doctor leans down and squeezes my mouth open, uncorks the vial and pours it into my mouth. I hold it in my mouth, but he massages my throat, forcing me to swallow it.
As the drug takes hold, they all sit back. One of the soldiers bangs on the wall of the van, the engine rumbles to life, and we begin to move…
Just before everything fades into a sea of black.